Many things can cause gut problems. In the past, doctors were quick to blame stomach upset on stress. But, with more focus on issues like bloating, gas, and constipation, we know now that stress is not the only culprit.
People with Hashimoto's thyroiditis often experience painful bloating. However, the cause is not always straightforward. Sometimes, Hashimoto's bloating is related to constipation that results from an underactive thyroid, but often it is more complex than that.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland tissues. Over time, this causes chronic inflammation and leads o hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. Autoimmune diseases are very complex to understand, and there are certainly still mysteries behind them. However, research suggests that autoimmune diseases often start in the gut. After all, most of your immune system lives in your digestive tract.
If you struggle with digestive symptoms like bloating, there are several things you can do to relieve these symptoms. Ahead, an exploration of some of the leading causes of bloating in Hashimoto's and what you can do about it. After all, knowing what is behind your bloating can help you take proactive steps toward treating it.
Because thyroid hormones help regulate your gastric motility, it can take longer for food to move throughout your gastrointestinal system. When food sits in your stomach for too long, it can cause acid reflux and burping. It also makes you feel full for a long time. Also, Hashimoto's may cause low stomach acid, making it harder to digest foods properly, especially protein-rich food. Low stomach acid can also lead to nutrient depletion and food sensitivities. Further down your digestive tract, slower gut motility can cause constipation, which can exacerbate your bloating symptoms.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, for short, is a condition where too many bacteria that usually belong in the large intestine migrate to the small intestine. The type of bacteria that migrate feeds off of simple sugars and carbohydrates in your diet. When they consume these sugars, they emit excess gas that can accumulate in your small intestine, causing you immense discomfort.
Symptoms of SIBO include:
SIBO may occur after surgical procedures and other conditions that can slow gastric emptying. Because low thyroid hormones can slow your digestive tract (as evidenced by the common symptom of constipation), people with Hashimoto's may be likely to develop SIBO.
To diagnose SIBO, your doctor may order a breath test that measures the amount of hydrogen and methane in your breath after drinking a mixture of water and glucose. A rise in these two gases can indicate too much bacteria in the small intestine. Although breath tests are less invasive, the gold standard for diagnosing SIBO is to get a fluid sample from your digestive tract through an endoscopic procedure.
Certain lifestyle factors can put you at greater risk for bloating. So, one of the first ways to prevent bloating is to avoid the following behaviors.
Proper nutrition is also a crucial part of our lifestyle and is critical in curbing bloating. After all, people usually bloat after eating a meal, and often it is what's in your food that causes the discomfort. One of the best ways to identify foods that trigger bloating is to try a temporary elimination diet. With an elimination diet, you eliminate foods and then reintroduce them slowly to determine your specific dietary triggers. This process can be incredibly beneficial for people living with autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto's.
The autoimmune protocol (AIP diet) is helpful for most people with an autoimmune condition like Hashimoto's. This diet can help you identify what foods are easy on your system and what foods wreak havoc.
The AIP is a rigorous elimination diet. For the first several weeks, you eat only easy-to-digest foods while eliminating common food triggers like gluten and grains, dairy, sugar, soy, eggs, nuts and seeds, and nightshade vegetables. Processed and refined sugars, oils, and caffeine are off-limits.
After the elimination phase, you intentionally reintroduce one food group at a time, slowly, to determine which foods best support your body. In this experimental diet, you want to allow your body enough time to reset before you begin any reintroductions. Giving yourself enough time will enable you to feel noticeable differences in how you feel physically and mentally.
Another diet that can help relieve bloating is the FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols, which are certain carbohydrates found in foods like wheat and beans infamous for triggering uncomfortable digestive symptoms. In a low-FODMAP diet, you remove these foods from your diet.
FODMAPs draw water into your intestines, which can lead to diarrhea. However, they also provide fuel for bacteria that release gases into your system. Many studies confirm that a low FODMAP diet can improve symptoms and quality of life in people with IBS, IBD, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's.
However, a low-FODMAP diet is not for everyone as most FODMAP foods are prebiotics, supporting the growth of good gut bacteria. We recommend you consult with a thyroid doctor or thyroid nutritionist to determine the right health plan for your specific needs.
Besides taking your regular thyroid medication, you can also treat symptoms of bloating with over-the-counter medications that help relieve gas, like simethicone. However, if your symptoms are persistent or you continually rely on medication to reduce bloating, it is time to see your doctor.
While there is not strong scientific evidence for natural, alternative remedies for bloating, many people share that peppermint, ginger, cloves, and chamomile help soothe their guts, anecdotally. Some people also add apple cider vinegar to their beverages or take activated charcoal supplements before and after meals to improve digestion.
Acupuncture is alternative medicine method that may support digestive discomforts. Acupuncture can affect the internal organs by stimulating the somatic nervous system. While scientific studies show conflicting results for the effectiveness of acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome, some evidence shows that it may help control digestive symptoms like bloating.
Don't let bloating interfere with your quality of life! If you struggle with bloating and other uncomfortable digestive symptoms, it may be time to partner with a thyroid nutritionist to determine the best diet to support your specific needs.
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